It's been just over a year since FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller started his investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Now, the investigation has just produced another round of individuals being charged with crimes. On Friday, July 13, the FBI announced the latest indictments in the Mueller investigation, all of them members of the Russian intelligence agency GRU.
All 12 individuals indicted on Friday were Russians accused of hacking and carrying out a "sustained effort" to interfere with the emails and computer networks of the Democratic party, CNN reports.
Previously, Mueller's probe had already resulted in 22 indictments as of May, which marked one year since Mueller had taken over the investigation following the ouster of former FBI Director James Comey in 2017.
In the indictment, processed in the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., the grand jury charged 12 defendants with a list of charges. The indictment describes a chain of events starting in spring 2016 in which the individuals allegedly hacked into computers and emails of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC), "covertly monitored" them, "implanted hundred of files containing malicious computer code," and stole documents.
Additionally, the indictment charges, the defendants used false identities in the process, working under the persona "Guccifer 2.0," to hide their ties to Russia.
CNN's Kaitlin Collins tweeted out a screenshot of what appeared to be a statement from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein via the White House regarding the indictments.
"There is no allegation in this indictment that Americans knew that they were corresponding with Russians," the statement reads. "Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election results. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along."
The White House statement distances President Donald Trump from the investigation. This has been the case with essentially each step of the Mueller investigation as there have been no charges made against the president himself or his family. President Trump has repeatedly stated that there was "NO COLLUSION" between his presidential campaign and Russia. In fact, the president has tweeted the phrase "no collusion" over 30 times in the last year.
In the announcement of the indictments, Rosenstein stated that "the conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet." However, he immediately added, "There is no allegation in the indictment that the Americans knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers."
The hacking of the email accounts of a large group of Democratic actors was a major story line in the 2016 presidential election. Although this email hack was separate from the congressional investigation into Hillary Clinton's email use as Secretary of State, the two issues combined were used to shed doubt on Clinton's trustworthiness by her opponents during the election.
On July 27, 2016, in the midst of the election, then-candidate Trump said, referring to the congressional email investigation, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." (Trump later said this was a joke.) That same day, Friday's indictment claims, the Russians stepped up efforts to hack Clinton campaign emails, according to Business Insider.
The dozen individuals ensnared by the FBI investigation added to previous indictments made by the special counsel. Back in February, Mueller had issued indictments of another 13 individuals and three entities, most of them Russian as well. Those people and entities were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., among a few other charges. Others indicted under the Mueller investigation so far include Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and Manafort's associate, Rick Gates. The investigation is still ongoing.